Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Story


What has Casablanca to do with the Regency? I attended the Robert McKee workshop “Story” on the weekend, the reason my blog fell by the wayside (rambling pun intended).

What a grueling event. Grueling to the body and to the mind. Obviously I am not going to give you the inside scoop on the workshop. McKee would probably take me by the thumbs and hang me from the buttress of the nearest castle. But I would like to share some of my insights and emotions why they are still fresh.

By the by, if you are a writer and are thinking about taking this workshop, McKee is no charismatic god. He runs his workshop the way a sergeant runs his barracks. At any moment I expected one of the recipients of his wisdom to be told to “get down and give me twenty”.

At least one person was ejected for talking. And others paid money, when their phones rang during the talk. And I was supremely grateful. There is nothing worse that paying hundreds of dollars to listen to a speaker and hearing nothing but the opinionated a**h*** behind you. Okay, so some of McKee rubbed off on me.

McKee’s delivery is peppered with in-your-face anglo-saxon language and his voice is harsh and rasping. After 11 hours of listening, it stays in your head like a headache. I think it is called brain washing.

Halleluiah!!!! Isn’t that what you want when you come out of a workshop—for it to stay in your head? I do and did.

And you could hear a pin drop. 11 hours for three days and you could hear a pin drop.

What did I as a writer get out of this event? I think I reached a higher level of understanding not only of my craft and those insights were as wonderful as they were devastating, (I have so much work to do) but of my responsibility and my place in the world as a writer.

This is a blog. I do not plan to write a thesis here. However, here is one revelation I had.

Communication. Writers communicate ideas through story, be that story played out on film and on the page. Film is visual, and boy did I learn about that this past weekend. As McKee says, novels are much easier, you can actually write down what the protaginist is thinking and get away with it.

Communication is a huge thing today, isn’t it? Huge. We are all communicating around the world. WRONG. It is an integral part of our humanity that we communicate with each other; we meet and greet, send forth our ideas and nowadays they can be picked up around the world in a flash. WRONG. The world has become small because of the ease of communication. Again I would say WRONG

Our world has almost stopped communicating. Go to the grocery store. What do you see, people walking around the store with a phone to their ear? Are they not communicating?
Remember how it used to be? You chatted to the check out person, you smiled at fellow shoppers. You met people. Does the person on the phone even see you? No. They are inward looking and talking to one person. The one person they know. The half a dozen people they know. They are shrinking inside themselves to an ever-smaller circle of people with whom to communicate.

And the internet. Are we communicating with people? No. We are simply passing along other people’s jokes and views of life. We are not connecting.

If a person reads your book, are you communicating and connecting? I would say yes. You are in that person’s head for a while as they live though your characters. They meet the people you introduce to them. They hear other ideas and formulate their own. And on the printed page, your printed page, they do it over and over again, hundreds of them, if they read it more than once, or they pass it to a friend. How many years has Shakespeare been communicating with everyone in the world? Not that I think I am Shakespeare. But I doubt that Shakespeare thought he was Shakespeare either. Or that Dickens thought he was Dickens. Do you think? Now that is a leading question.

I sincerely hope that this workshop makes me a better writer for the benefit of my readers, because being a writer is an extraordinary privilege and a heavy burden. It seems that we are charged to keep the “ITY” in human. (Humanity)

Do I recommend this workshop? Yes. I do.